Bane_of_Kings: Emperor's Blood
An Imperial Guard Short Story
SLOWLY, KEEPING HIS head down, Colonel Kardan advanced through the ruins of what had once been known as Hive Hestran. “Watch your backs, men,” he remarked, gesturing to his men behind him. “You never know where these traitors might be hiding. Check every ruin.”
“Yes, Colonel,” there was a chorus of replies from his squad. Climbing through what had once been some sort of pub, a place for hivers to gather and drink; it was here that he first heard the voice.
‘Count the Seven.’
“What was that?” uttered the vox-caster, afraid. He was a young man in his early twenties, and boasted blonde hair. He was named Thestus, and had been with the Regiment ever since Morannos. “I just got something weird on the vox.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kardan responded. “It’s just your vox acting up – keep going. Remember, guard your flanks. The Emperor Protects.”
“The Emperor Protects,” they chorused as one, and continued their advance.
“The Baneblade was last reported to be several miles north-east of our current position, Colonel,” Jedrec, the man who carried the squad’s flamer, informed his Colonel of what he already knew. Deciding not to respond, Colonel Kardan continued his advance.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Andras was the one who spoke, nudging a corpse with his lasgun to see if it moved. “Why couldn’t we be off on the front line? We shouldn’t have to be searching for a lost Baneblade.”
“Contact was lost with the Baneblade, but the pskyers confirm that it’s machine spirit is still intact,” Kardan turned on Andras. “That’s why we’re going out there. We can’t go in Valkyries or Chimeras because that would give away our position. And we don’t have any Sentinels left, and all our other squads are on the front line.”
“I know that, Colonel,” responded Andras. “But what about the 22nd? We haven’t heard from them in weeks.”
“The last time they were reported was near the Baneblade,” replied Kardan. “I’ll give extra rations to all of you if we find both.”
That got the men interested. The promise of extra food always got the men interested, as during wars, food was often hard to come by. As Kardan climbed over another piece of wreckage, he heard the voice again.
‘Count the Seven.’
“I don’t think that’s my vox acting up, Colonel,” uttered Thestus.
“Try changing the frequency,” replied Kardan, and continued regardless. “It’s nothing.”
“But Colonel, this is the second time I heard it,” Thestus remarked, anxiously. “I mean, I can understand once, but twice?”
Colonel Kardan shot a look at Thestus, and remarked, “It’s defiantly your vox acting up.”
“Any more words from you, Thestus, and I’ll shoot you where you stand.”
“It wasn’t Thestus who spoke, Colonel,” remarked Andras with a frown. “I heard it as well. Count the Seven. That’s all it is. Just three words.”
‘Count the Seven.’
And this time, Colonel Kardan heard it. It was an eerie voice, deep and dragged out. It echoed across the squad, causing each of them, including the Colonel to stop stone dead.
“Ignore it,” after a long pause, Kardan came to a conclusion. “If it’s not the vox acting up, it’s the enemy trying to scare us. Don’t pay attention to it.”
“Colonel, if the enemy can get into our vox systems, does that mean they know where we are?” asked Thestus, worryingly, as they climbed over another small ruin.
“If they know where we are they would have attacked by now,” replied Kardan.
“Or they’re leading us into a trap,” Jedrec replied grimly. “What’s our next move, Colonel?”
“We follow our orders, unless you want to find yourself as part of the penal legions,” Kardan spat, and grabbed his weapon, a trusty Power Sword that had been with him, also since Morannos, when he had lost his old one to a xenos later classified as a Carnifex. The only reason why he still lived was due to the intervention of an adeptus astartes, from the Raven Guard Chapter, appearing from nowhere to smite the alien with righteous fury.
“So we advance,” the final member of the five-man squad, the only female there, and the highest ranked in the Regiment, Kal, spoke. “And if it’s a trap, we spring it and call in for air support.”
“Aye, that’s what we’ll do,” Colonel Kardan grinned. “Nice thinking, Kal. Sharp as ever. Now, Guardsmen. We wouldn’t want to let the God-Emperor down, would we?”
They continued their advance in silence. About half an hour later, they arrived in what had once been an Imperial Chapel, dedicated to the God-Emperor and the Imperium. Some defiled banners still hung on the walls, signifying that the enemy had not had a chance to taint this place yet.
Which unnerved Kardan, as he thought, if he was the enemy, he would have defiled the Chapel long ago – as it stood out as a beacon of resistance, and a beacon of hope, to any survivors.
“We go inside the Chapel,” ordered Kardan.
“Guns blazing or stealth, Colonel?” asked Jedrec, curiously, lifting his flamer.
“Scan for signs of life,” Kardan responded, looking at Kal, who obeyed.
“There’s... There’s nothing,” Kal remarked, after a quick scan.
“Good. Then we don’t have to-”
“Wait,” Kal held up her free hand. “I’m detecting something... lots of things inside. Some small, some large. But... there’s hundreds, Colonel! And there’s more – behind us!”
“Behind us?” Colonel Kardan spun around, but saw nothing. Then, Kal screamed. Instantly turning around, Kardan noticed it.
,” he spat, and loaded his pistol. It was small for a spawn of the archenemy, and stank so badly that Kardan reckoned they could have smelt it a mile away, and it was covered in green – but there were more than just one of them.
And they were not all the same size. There were several different shapes of them, some suspiciously man-sized. Recognising the banner that one of them held, Kardan cursed.
At last they had found out what had happened to the Korvannon 22nd.